24 September 2011

Home Coffee Roasting

19 pounds of green coffee beans
Several years ago, I was introduced to home coffee roasting by one of my friends. I've been happily ordering green beans from Sweet Maria's and roasting them in a small roaster in my backyard ever since.

Roasting one's own coffee certainly adds a bit of complexity to the whole coffee-drinking process.  But I think it likewise adds to one's satisfaction with the experience in equal if not greater proportion.

Roasting allows me to find just the right point at which a particular bean's flavor appeals to my palate, and because of this, home-roasting allows me to become just -that-much better acquainted with my coffee.  Similarly, roasting has allowed me to better understand how coffee is grown and processed, and even to identify certain cup-qualities and regions of the world that seem to tend to grow coffee cultivars that we especially enjoy.

Bagged for storage
This week we received our latest shipment of coffee beans...nineteen pounds, in 1 to 5 pound lots... which I transferred into muslin bags for storage.  We order lots of varying size depending on our familiarity with the beans; five pound bags for beans from farms or regions we already know we love; 1 or 2 pound bags for new beans we're trying out.

Sweet Maria's ships faster than any place I know, so just a few days after placing our order a box arrives filled with the unique aroma of green coffee from cool places all over the world... in this case: Sumatra, Ethiopia, and Central America.  This shipment will last us several months.  However, in the interim we're likely to order more as we find we really like particular beans in this order enough to invest in larger quantities.  This is also a good idea because Sweet Maria's inventories are often quite limited.  They're fond of reminding customers that coffee is a commodity, not a drink.

17 September 2011

Poster Girl [UPDATED]

We bought our daughter a new bicycle the other day. It's her fourth bike, a real one, for a big-girl, with 20-inch wheels, hand brakes, gears to shift, and front shocks. She's pretty stoked about it. So are we.

She's basically the poster-girl for Specialized Hotrock and Hotwalk bikes.  Chiefly because her daddy sometimes works at a bike shop that sells them, but also because they're really great little bikes.  Below, I've thrown together a quick chronology of her bikes, from today all the way back to the beginning...

Hotrock 20" -- Sept. 2011
Hotrock 20" -- Sept. 2011
Hotrock 16" -- October 2010
Hotrock 16" -- February 2011
Hotrock 12" -- April 2010
Hotrock 12" -- July 2009
Hotwalk 12" -- Marsh 2009
Hotwalk 12" -- May 2008

Never had training wheels.  Makes me proud...

UPDATE: 27 October 2016

For her birthday in April 2014, we bought her another Specialized, another Hotrock in fact, this time one with 24" wheels and a triple chainring, 21 gears in all. Bigger wheels and the wider range of gears made a huge difference. She rode this bike with increasing proficiency for about two and a half years, until the seat post was at its max.

This bike made her a mountain biker. A full on, legit, shredder of singletrack.

Then, 'round about the end of the summer of 2016, it became quite obvious that she was going to need yet another upgrade, to a much larger bike with even bigger wheels.

Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to buy her a like-new but slightly-used Surly Pugsley from a fleet of winter rentals that were being off loaded by a local outfitter and friend.  He gave us a great deal and she's been killin' it on her new super-big wheels ever since.  I'm hoping she hangs on to this rig for a long time, perhaps even forever if she doesn't end up too tall.

I love my Surlys.  I'm pretty sure she does, too.

UPDATE: 01 May 2017

Stoked, once again, to have come across a classic steel Ritchey P-bike (a 1995 Crazy Pete) in super-nice condition the other day. Fits my now-12-year-old daughter perfectly and likely will for some time, maybe for always.

So fun to watch her shred on a seriously-classy vintage bike that was built (to shred) some 10 years before she was born.

04 September 2011

Trifecta Days

I've taken a few philosophy classes over the years, both as an undergrad and during my graduate studies. And I've always enjoyed them. I guess I like the big questions: What is reality? How do people learn? Why are we here? Is there a God?

But, for whatever it's worth, despite my interest in the Big Questions, I've still always kinda had this idea that the vast majority of big-name philosophers spent way too much of their time over-analyzing the Sublime.  And, as a result, I think they failed to make many really valid attempts at better understanding the mundane, life as it is, on the ground, day-to-day. To me, rather than asking, Why are we here? an even better question, with just as many potentially deep philosophical portents, is: What should I do today?

As laypeople, it rarely gets much deeper than that for most of us anyway.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was riding my bike in the woods. As I was riding along I was thinking: All I really want to do is ride my bike. Why can't i just ride my bike all-the-time? Which, when I'm riding my bike is pretty much how I always feel.

In reality, of course, it's not a completely true thought though, is it? There are obviously plenty of other things I love to do, too.  Plus there are all the people that I love. And they figure into this equation pretty heavily as well.

And then there's altruism, huh?  The whole idea: What could I do for others today?  Oh. Yeah.  Riiiight.  Nearly overlooked that.

But this really isn't a post about altruism.  It's about a much more selfish ideal.  The ideal that asks-and-answers the simple proposition: What does it really take to have a Really Good Day?

(Just so you know: I'm not going to feel guilty right now, wrestling with the rightness and wrongness of this line of thinking.  We'll save that for another time.)

So, What makes A Really Good Day? Well, it occurs to me that the Very Best Days often, if not always, contain three similar elements. On the Very Best Days I:
  • A) spend real time with the people I love.
  • B) do something I'm passionate about.
  • C) indulge in something. Usually something that's rather pointless or frivolous.
On my Very Best Days, I achieve this rare Trifecta Of Selfishness, via any number of self-serving, self-satisfying means.  I could A) go on a hike in the woods with my family; B) spend the morning turning around runs at Snowbowl; and C) stop at the DQ and buy a large Mocha Moolatte.

Or I could A) go for a drive with my wife and daughter around town after dinner in the Bug with the top down; B) take a series of pictures of my kid playing with the dogs in the backyard; and C) spend an hour before bedtime wrenching on my bikes in the garage.

Or whatever.  You get the idea.

They're suuuuper selfish.  I get that.  And these sorts of days, they do very little for others.  I get that, too.  But still, despite their indulgence, and the selfishness of it all, I've got to admit: I absolutely love my Trifecta days.  

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey